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Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.

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Hello there. I’m so glad to have found this community because I have not yet found many people I can talk to genuinely and purposefully about my studies of Buddhism and my experiences. I’m about to complete my undergraduate degree and over the course of my college career I have encountered some unique experiences that I am not sure how to rightly classify or even justify as spiritual progression in a positive direction. I’m hoping this community can help shed some light on my experiences and situation so that I may see it for what is was and not something I want it to be. I apologize ahead of time for the length of this but this has something that I’ve been trying to figure out on my own for years.
I’ll start off with the disclaimer that I’m Bi-polar, which is one of the main reasons I have been so confused and skeptical about my experiences. I’m very interested in the relationship between Buddhism and Bi-polar and would actually love to be part of a study in which some empirical data could be collected on how they interact.
I have been on a mood stabilizer since I was 12 (I’m 21 now) and have just recently added an anti-psychotic and an anti-depressant to the mix due to what I’ve gone through. I eventually want to be medication free and only rely on the strength of myself to control my emotions simply because I think its healthier and I truly believe the study of Buddhist teachings can have a profound effect. Though I’m not sure how good or bad the effect will be. I have heard both sides.
In addition to this, being one of the variables I have to deal with in determining what my experience was, I developed a fascination with psychedelics in high school, which crept into my first year of college. After my freshman year, going into my sophomore year, I was also put on Lexipro to help relieve my social anxiety. This is known to cause manic episodes in people with Bi-polar but my doctor thought I was stable enough to try it out.
So this all factored into my first experience, clinically labeled as drug-induced psychosis. The Lexipro made me slightly manic, which lead me to take acid for a concert, after which I felt slightly off. Over the following week, this feeling of being off compounded on itself with every strange thought I had, building a completely different reality that I was living in. I was having delusions of grandeur constantly along with feelings of extreme fear and paranoia, which was peppered with moments of deep peace and satisfaction. My thoughts were completely unfounded but I felt I could peer into myself as well as people around me and the societal structure we lived in with such a clear lens. I did some pretty crazy and impulsive things for that week as is classically defined in a manic episode. So I was put on Abilify.
After a pretty shitty year on that, I requested to get off of it. I did so, but was not aware that doing this would cause a rush of dopamine to flood my brain. This caused what was classified as another manic episode in which the exact same feelings returned but with different unfounded thoughts. In this manic episode I was extremely driven to find the nature of reality. But again they were based on what I thought were grounded thoughts at the time but I was really just building towers of logic that would topple if the base idea was invalid. I realize I disregarded the fact that correlation does not equal causation. But again this feeling of looking at the world with a clear lens or maybe more of a lens without boundaries and restrictions was there. I felt so free and had no fear to act genuinely. I truly felt my emotions and was aware of them and was able to express them for the first time in a while. Going through daily life I feel like they are so dulled as is common in American culture that it was so nice to connect with them again. This might just be due to my medication, which is one reason I am considering getting off of them at some point.
Even though my thoughts could be considered irrational, I felt I gained some great insights that still sticks with me today. I believe and really felt they have at least a cornel of truth to them. I have truly changed as a person due to these experiences. More confident, less socially anxious, more keen, but also periods of the complete opposite effects. This experience has made me realize how malleable our mindsets are and has provided me with the determination to reshape mine to better fit the true nature of reality and work in a more positive and useful way. I have gotten over the drug phase and have a strong to determination to develop better discipline in my practices.
So I guess my question to you guys is what was this? Mania or spiritual progression or maybe both? How does one determine what is leading one down a positive path or down the path of mania and psychosis. Is there a difference? Is it just a matter of disciplining the mind to not be overwhelmed with these thoughts and experiences? Due to the negative labels and terms society and the scientific community has given people who go through these kinds of experiences, I am in constant doubt that my thoughts are crazy and that they will not lead me anywhere but more down the rabbit hole. What should I realize or develop so that I may progress confidently?
Thanks so much for reading this and I appreciate any reply. Sorry for the length again.

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/27/11 7:23 PM as a reply to Timothy H.
Hi Tim. Just wanted to say that I've read your post. I don't have any comments at the moment but I hope someone will leave a bit of advice to you.

Just wanted to say that I read it through emoticon

Welcome to the DhO emoticon

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/27/11 7:28 PM as a reply to Timothy H.
Hey Timothy,

I read your post too. Can you describe these parts more specifically?

Timothy Hill:
...after which I felt slightly off. Over the following week, this feeling of being off compounded on itself with every strange thought I had, building a completely different reality that I was living in. I was having delusions of grandeur constantly along with feelings of extreme fear and paranoia, which was peppered with moments of deep peace and satisfaction. My thoughts were completely unfounded but I felt I could peer into myself as well as people around me and the societal structure we lived in with such a clear lens. I did some pretty crazy and impulsive things for that week as is classically defined in a manic episode...

Could you describe more about what the nature of the thoughts were like... how the fear/paranoia turned into deep peace (or vice versa)... what was the clear lens like?

Timothy Hill:
This caused what was classified as another manic episode in which the exact same feelings returned but with different unfounded thoughts. In this manic episode I was extremely driven to find the nature of reality. But again they were based on what I thought were grounded thoughts at the time but I was really just building towers of logic that would topple if the base idea was invalid. I realize I disregarded the fact that correlation does not equal causation. But again this feeling of looking at the world with a clear lens or maybe more of a lens without boundaries and restrictions was there. I felt so free and had no fear to act genuinely. I truly felt my emotions and was aware of them and was able to express them for the first time in a while. Going through daily life I feel like they are so dulled as is common in American culture that it was so nice to connect with them again.

What were the thoughts like? How did you go about trying to find the nature of reality / what did you find?

Timothy Hill:
Even though my thoughts could be considered irrational, I felt I gained some great insights that still sticks with me today. I believe and really felt they have at least a cornel of truth to them. I have truly changed as a person due to these experiences. More confident, less socially anxious, more keen, but also periods of the complete opposite effects. This experience has made me realize how malleable our mindsets are and has provided me with the determination to reshape mine to better fit the true nature of reality and work in a more positive and useful way.

Could you describe these insights?

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/28/11 6:12 PM as a reply to Timothy H.
hi Tim, thanks for sharing. I don't really feel competent to address your concerns, because it seems like it would be ideal to get some advice from someone who was a mental health professional with solid dharma experience/realization, or else, an accomplished practitioner who has personal experience with the kinds of mental health issues you refer to. I can imagine it's frustrating to feel like there are kernels of truth to your insights but that many mental health professionals will simply label you with a bunch of disorders and right any good bits off :-P.

I disclaim no mental health expertise and no dharma expertise either for that matter, and suggest that you would be really wise to try to find a mental health professional who is sympathetic and knowledgeable about dharma to work with you on this, or a dharma teacher who is also a clinical psychologist and can be aware of those dynamics too. It would be too easy for a doc with no meditation experience to throw out any babies with the bath water and for a meditator with no mental health expertise to offer you feedback that inadvertantly worsens your mental health condition.

--Jake

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/28/11 6:29 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Hey thanks for the replys. I realized after I posted this I didn’t give much information to interpret. I’ll try to explain what I was going through as best I can but it’s been a couple of years. What both of these instances have in common was that my perspective of the world just abruptly broadened to this massive size. In both cases, I had a perception of this web of actions that connected me and everything else. I clearly saw people’s motivations without any effort to try and decipher it from their words and demeanor. I felt I could glimpse and interact with their core self and not just through all these societal filters. It was an amazing feeling of connectedness with everyone and everything. I didn’t feel alone.

Walking down the street, i would hear people’s passing conversations and consider their words in relation to my life. I was convinced that in every circumstance I could learn something about myself. I gave meaning to these passing voices that would otherwise be lost among the chaos of the world and believed that those words I overheard were “God” or a higher power or force that one could learn and interact with if interpreted in a certain way. Though these passing people did not consider me for one second in their speech I believed their words could be a great insight to my own existence and habits.

Growing up in this western culture, the existence of God, Jesus and the Devil were constantly in my thoughts, which is what triggered my fear and paranoia. I contemplated their roles in the world and even was convinced my friends and myself were either the Devil or Jesus. I literally believed I was facing the devil in certain situations. These characters were constantly changing people. At one moment I thought one person is devil and the next I was convinced I was the devil. Same with the role of Jesus. This notion put pressure on my actions and speech and gave me the idea that there were grave circumstances if I did something wrong. This pressure was immensely painful but the joy of interacting with what I believed to be a ‘higher power’ was also immense.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to see the magic of the world. I believed that this day to day bullshit wasn’t all there is. There had to be something more. When I went into this state I believed I was in this world but I saw its true magical nature. It’s just so hidden from everyone else. At one point, I believed I conversed with “God” in the christain or catholic sense. I’ve tried to figure out what this could have been. These thoughts I had were not coming from my conscious self because I was also interacting with this voice. It could have been I was having a conversation with my subconscious but these voices really seemed like actual entities just not what I considered me. I’ve thought that I witnessed all the persons that together form my personality. But I don’t know. I’m a little lost on how to classify it.

It’s tough to recall specific insights I had as they were more just feelings of truly knowing. I would say realizing this web and my relation to it was the most influential. Very sensationalistic thoughts occur still based off this idea but I have to disregard them because they sort of cause a little panic in me.

So being Bi-polar, this seems to happen annually and it just started a couple years ago. I’m curious if this resembles any stage your familiar with. The dark night maybe? I was very impulsive and didn’t really have a handle on my actions and behaviors but now that I’ve been through it twice I feel I can face it more appropriately. Thanks guys.

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/28/11 6:34 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Hey Jacob,

Thanks for the words of wisdom. I'll definitely look into my options.

-Tim

RE: Clinical diagnosis vs Spiritual progression. Im confused.
Answer
9/28/11 7:30 PM as a reply to Timothy H.
Ok, I'll attempt to diagnose what you describe in terms of the Progress of Insight (you'll want to read through all those cycles, and maybe most of MCTB as well), but keep in mind that I have basically no knowledge of bi-polar disorder, except it seems to mimic A&P->Dark Night pretty well. This post specifically addresses that topic and you might like to read it.

Timothy H:
What both of these instances have in common was that my perspective of the world just abruptly broadened to this massive size. In both cases, I had a perception of this web of actions that connected me and everything else. I clearly saw people’s motivations without any effort to try and decipher it from their words and demeanor. I felt I could glimpse and interact with their core self and not just through all these societal filters. It was an amazing feeling of connectedness with everyone and everything. I didn’t feel alone.

A&P

Timothy H:
Walking down the street, i would hear people’s passing conversations and consider their words in relation to my life. I was convinced that in every circumstance I could learn something about myself. I gave meaning to these passing voices that would otherwise be lost among the chaos of the world and believed that those words I overheard were “God” or a higher power or force that one could learn and interact with if interpreted in a certain way. Though these passing people did not consider me for one second in their speech I believed their words could be a great insight to my own existence and habits.

A&P

Timothy H:
Growing up in this western culture, the existence of God, Jesus and the Devil were constantly in my thoughts, which is what triggered my fear and paranoia. I contemplated their roles in the world and even was convinced my friends and myself were either the Devil or Jesus. I literally believed I was facing the devil in certain situations. These characters were constantly changing people. At one moment I thought one person is devil and the next I was convinced I was the devil. Same with the role of Jesus. This notion put pressure on my actions and speech and gave me the idea that there were grave circumstances if I did something wrong. This pressure was immensely painful but the joy of interacting with what I believed to be a ‘higher power’ was also immense.

Dark Night (Fear, Misery, Disgust, Desire for Deliverance)

Timothy H:
For a long time, I’ve wanted to see the magic of the world. I believed that this day to day bullshit wasn’t all there is. There had to be something more. When I went into this state I believed I was in this world but I saw its true magical nature. It’s just so hidden from everyone else. At one point, I believed I conversed with “God” in the christain or catholic sense. I’ve tried to figure out what this could have been. These thoughts I had were not coming from my conscious self because I was also interacting with this voice. It could have been I was having a conversation with my subconscious but these voices really seemed like actual entities just not what I considered me. I’ve thought that I witnessed all the persons that together form my personality. But I don’t know. I’m a little lost on how to classify it.

You tapped into a very deep part of your brain. Don't follow the voices man - they're just 'you' =P. This thread specifically addresses that.

Timothy H:
It’s tough to recall specific insights I had as they were more just feelings of truly knowing. I would say realizing this web and my relation to it was the most influential. Very sensationalistic thoughts occur still based off this idea but I have to disregard them because they sort of cause a little panic in me.

feeling that you know is A&P. actually knowing comes from going through the cycles, paying attention to the nature of reality as it is (not as to what 'feels right'), getting a fruition, getting enlightened, etc...

EDIT: Not to say none of your insights were useful. But you have some work to do to tease out what was actual insight and what was delusion. Harder to do on drugs, I think, not that you can't have valid insights on drugs.